A van, a man and no plan: Week One on the Road
So my lovely German fella and I decided to celebrate our freedom from farm work, the most freeing way of all: A road trip.
With loose plans (and by loose plans I mean no plans at all), my boyfriend Henrik decided to buy a 97 Mitubishi (named Mushi) with a built in 'kitchen' (a.k.a two gas stoves, a couple pots and pans and some cutlery) with a somewhat spacious mattress in the back.
Essentially we have our bedroom and kitchen with us whenever we travel, what more could one need? We get hungry? We park up and start cooking! (Given that there's no wind of course as little did I realise, making banana pancakes would be unsuccessful near the top of a mountain with near gale force winds). And yes, we often do get some strange looks (and often a couple of comments) when cooking up our dinner at a beach car park, but do you know what? Who cares. If I've learnt anything from road tripping so far, it's all about living the simple life (which isn't so bad after all).
We a spent our first 4 nights of road tripping/freedom in a beautiful coastal/hippy town in New South Wales, called 'Byron Bay' (where people flee to escape the realities of a mundane lifestyle). Byron is reknowned for it's easy, chilled out lifestyle with heaps of surfing, coastal walks, markets, stunning beaches (with jaw-dropping sunsets), gorgeous boutique/boho (but bloody expensive) clothes shops and amazing (mainly organic) food (with heaps of vegan options). However if anything can sum Byron up, its most definitely their welcome sign as you head into the town:
Despite Byron Bay being the obvious main attraction, there's actually many, beautiful little towns and villages (Mullumbimby & Bangalow) to visit nearby which offer cosy coffee shops, antique stores and weekly local farmers markets with delicious fresh food and live music. We managed to visit a different market in a different town, for 4 days in a row (which was awesome however they mainly had the same stores, which meant you couldn't as easily brag tasters when the same people know you're not going to buy a jar of their $20 homemade sauerkraut). I couldn't say no, however, to a creamy coconut chai latte (which was always served in such beautiful paper cups).
Before leaving New South Wales, I managed to (eventually) convince my lover to come to Crystal Castle with me. Crystal castle is basically an absolutely stunning plot of land, which is home to gigantic crystals (including the worlds biggest amethysts up to 120 million years old)!
Being a huge crystal lover myself, I was thrilled to be in the presence of these gigantic beauties (not to mention the intense energy felt pulsating from them). Henrik however, not in the slightest into crystals, still had a really great time due to his appreciation for the nature and the Hindu themes running throughout the park. There's also heaps of exploring to do there such as a rain-forest walk, 'the Buddha walk' (statues of Buddhist and Hindu deities) and other novel experiences. So if you ever get an opportunity to go, definitely do not miss it!
Despite our time in Byron being absolutely wonderful, there were a few somewhat challenges. Showering for example. You just don't know cold until you've experienced showering at the beach showers after the sun has slowly made its way down. Not to mention you're lack of privacy whilst showering (in public), which means yes you have to shave your pits and legs in front of strangers. If there's one way to destroy the ego and increase humility, public showering is definitely the way to go folks!
Our second biggest challenge was finding where to sleep without getting caught for 'illegal camping'. Unfortunately most places on the East Coast are plastered with 'No Camping' signs, which means a hefty fine if you get caught. However thanks to a brilliant app called Wikicamps (created for backpackers who are road tripping), you get to see which spots have been stayed in, without people getting caught. After staying 4 nights, I never thought I could call a resting bay next to a public highway 'home'.
After our trip to Byron, we drove up to Gold Coast to go and stay with my cousin Steph and her boyfriend Guy for a couple of nights. Steph treated us like absolutely royalty (as celebration for the end of our gruelling farm work). A delicious vegan meal (mushroom risotto homemade by Steph-my fav), a couple bottles of moscato (between us) and a few games of uno later, I was well and truly relaxed (and pretty drunk-I don't handle alcohol very well).
Fortunately for me I wasn't too hungover the next day, and Steph and Guy kindly showed us round a bit of Gold Coast. We had a lovely hike around a nature trail at Burleigh Heads National Park, where I saw some of the most clearest and blue water that I've seen so far in Auz!
After our nature hike we grabbed some delicious food (falafels: a vegan go-to) and relaxed on the beach nearby. And I even braved a dip in the sea, despite a great white shark attack occurring a couple hours down the coast the day before, with constant helicopters pratrolling the coast lines for more sharks (welcome to Australia, the land where most things can kill you). But please, don't ever let that put you off coming to Auz because I honestly think it's one of the most amazing countries I've been too (so far). Not to mention the continuous beautiful weather, especially up North in Queensland where winter practically doesn't even exist (and people wonder why I don't want to live in the UK).
As for the rest of our time in Gold Coast, we spent the evening at a bowls club playing bowls, drinking some ciders and enjoying the dreamy pink sunset (we were probably the only group there in our 20s). The next day Steph showed Henrik and I around Surfers Paradise which reminded me a bit of Miami, but perhaps an even tackier version (if that's possible). I honestly didn't rate Surfers Paradise that much (or Miami in fact), but I guess it's good to have seen it while I was in the area..but I certainly wouldn't go out of my way to go there again (unlike Byron Bay which I would revisit in a heart beat).
On our way out of Gold Coast, Henrik and I visited 'Movie World' (courtesy of Stephs free pass), which is basically a little theme park with the rides based on super hero movies (the superman ride was by far a favourite). That was pretty fun and probably well worth a visit if you go when all of the rides are actually open (about 1/3 of the rides were closed when we visited).
After 'Movie World', we made our way up to Brisbane (which we've visited a couple times before) and found a place to stay (a car park next to a ferry port and a park), which we found once again on wikicamps. It's always quite fun how most nights our location will change, however we still have the same cosy van to sleep in each night.
I'm also actually surprised at how quickly I've grown accustomed to road tripping life, with no problem brushing my teeth on the side of the road or occasionally eating dinner out a can (although most nights we cook something together and then play rock, paper, scissors to see who washes up-which Henrik has lost consistently now for the past five games). Not to mention using the super handy skill of opening a can of food without a can opener (a skill Steph and I learned on YouTube whilst stuck in a hostel with just a broken can of food in Croatia).
Brisbane was pretty fun as we caught the ferry into the city and had a lovely wander around. I would say Brisbane is a pretty cool city with lots to see and explore, but Melbourne definitely still has my heart. Whilst we were in Brizzy I somehow managed to convince Henrik to walk 40 minutes (which I didn't even think was that far) to visit a 'Cat Cuddle Cafe' (basically a rescue home for cats which you can pet for an hour or adopt). We spent about 1.5 hours there whilst I was cooing over the 19 cats they had. If I could take ever single one of them home (if I had a home), then I definitely would. One day perhaps...
To sum up week one, it's been an absolute blast, filled with mini adventures, lots of laughter and more than a few in-dignifying moments (which road trips and living out of a van will bring). Luckily I've managed to capture a few of these things on my GoPro, so I hope you enjoy the video below:
To keep up with more of my road trip journey, check out my insta: